It’s time to talk about something that isn’t often talked about: mental health.

Listen, this doesn’t have to be scary. Think of it this way –

When you’re feeling kind of crummy and down for the count with a cold, you tell people, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling well. I have a pretty awful cold.’ Usually, most people will then schedule a doctor’s appointment, perhaps get some medicine to help them if they have a bacterial infection and allow their bodies the rest they need to feel better.

But things are a bit different when it comes to mental health, aren’t they?

There isn’t necessarily a magic pill to suddenly fix the issue that you or someone you love may be dealing with. Luckily, there are ways to help combat mental illnesses – just like other illnesses! There are doctors, or psychiatrists, medicines, and the support of friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers that can help.

Those options aside, it’s important to understand just how much exercise can help with mental health care.

Yes, it goes without saying that exercise helps the body. Everyone knows this. ‘Lose weight and feel better’, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Suffering from a mental illness can make it hard to find the motivation to work out, but if you can find the effort to tough it out and get in some exercise, the benefits will astound you.

Some great things about exercising include: 1) it can be done anywhere, 2) it can be done in a group or solo setting, 3) it’s 100% natural, and 4) you can choose exactly what type of exercising you enjoy doing.

Still, you may be asking yourself: how does exercise help? Will exercise even help? It sounds too good to be true.

In an article and study published by Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., they shared that1:

Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression. These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and by an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and, thus, on the physiologic reactivity to stress. This physiologic influence is probably mediated by the communication of the HPA axis with several regions of the brain, including the limbic system, which controls motivation and mood; the amygdala, which generates fear in response to stress; and the hippocampus, which plays an important part in memory formation as well as in mood and motivation.

Basically, exercise helps rewire the brain.

Exercise has been proven to help improve anxiety, depression, negative mood, self-esteem, and even cognitive function. In other studies2, research has shown that exercise has also helped individuals with more serious mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia. (Read more about that here.)

If you’re on board with giving exercising a shot to help improve your health, you may be asking yourself: how much exercise should I be engaging in per week?

Here’s the good news – it’s completely doable:

Thirty minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking for 3 days a week, is sufficient for these health benefits. Moreover, these 30 minutes need not to be continuous; three 10-minute walks are believed to be as equally useful as one 30-minute walk.3

Granted, each individual is different. You may enjoy a more fast-paced workout, or maybe you’re someone who enjoys the calmness of yoga. Try things out until you find what works for you.

Health benefits from regular exercise include4, but are not limited to:

  1. Improved sleep
  2. Increased interest in sex
  3. Better endurance
  4. Stress relief
  5. Improvement in mood
  6. Increased energy and stamina
  7. Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
  8. Weight reduction
  9. Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness

If you or someone you know is seeking help, know that it’s 100% OK to reach out to a mental health care provider. There is hope is a new tomorrow and feeling better than you might be feeling today.